New legislation received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013 which now means same sex couples can get married in England and Wales. The news, given by HoC Speaker John Bercow in the summer was reportedly greeted with cheers in the Commons chamber.
Same sex couples will be able to get married from 29 March 2014 onwards.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 makes provision for:
• Same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies;
• Religious organisations to opt in to marry same sex couples;
• The protection of religious organisations and their representatives from legal challenge if they do not wish to marry same sex couples;
• Civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage;
• Individuals to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage.
As noted, religious organisations will have to ‘opt in’ to offer weddings to same sex partners except the Church of England which is not able to ‘opt in’ as the law prevents it from doing so.
Women and Equalities Minister, The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, said regarding the new law: "Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex."
Whilst the Bill has been received well by most people, Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth said it was "astonishing that a bill for which there is absolutely no mandate, against which a majority of Conservatives voted, has been bulldozed through both Houses".
However, Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of gay rights campaign group Stonewall said: "This historic step will mean that, for the first time, every gay person in England and Wales will finally enjoy exactly the same rights as their heterosexual friends and family."
Clients considering entering into a same sex marriage later this year are advised to talk through any potential legal issues with a member of our highly ranked Private Client and Family teams. Issues that ought to be considered are wills, trust documents, pre and post nuptial agreements.
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